Bewildering Stories

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Mighty 57

by Don Webb

I’m looking forward to Jerry’s editorial, but as our regular Bewildered readers know by now, my enthusiasm springs eternal, and I can’t help putting my oar in. Please don’t mind all the splashing!

We now have material extending into issue 60. That changes nothing: we always want more! We’ll welcome back Shawn P. Madison in issue 58, and if we get bios from the new contributors in this issue — Paul Gross, Asgrimur Hartmannsson and Michael J. A. Tyzuk — they’ll get a little welcome notice, too.

Issue 57 has to be one of the most Bewildering that has ever appeared: whether it’s serials, stories or poems, you’ll find extreme contrasts: free form and traditional, dark and light, serious and funny, introspection and action. That’s not just Bewildering in our preferred mode, it’s terrific!


Serials have suddenly become a big feature. The open-ended “Round Robin” of Sherry Gray, David Norris and The Invincible Spud reached a hiatus with part 4 in issue 56. Spud says to end it with “To be continued...” and we hope it will be. Bring on the surrealistic comedy!

Meanwhile, in the current issue, Deep Bora starts a three-parter with “Neptune Spies.” It may help to know a little about Deep Bora’s background; be sure to check him out in “Bewildering Bios.” On the other hand, I feel that stories and poems stand or fall on their own merits, not on anything outside the work. Would we read “Neptune Spies” differently if we did not know who the author was or that he is from a linguistic and cultural background far removed from North America? No, I think we’d listen without preconceptions. We’d revel in the surprise of a story that uses the language of science fiction but often strays from the sometimes too-comfortable conventions we’re all familiar with.

“Deep” consistently relates the story’s scenes to their general context; however, I think he’s best read not for continuity but for the attention he gives to the characters’ personalities as they engage in conversation. Follow the serial through to part 3; you’ll find it concludes with a combat scene described in semi-mystical terms. It’s not only an intriguing literary innovation, it’s also very pretty.

Michael J. A. Tyzuk’s “The Dilemma” begins a four-part serial in this issue. It is the opposite in style to “Neptune Spies”: lots of action in the hallowed tradition of the space opera; old-time science fiction fans will be gratified. But Mr. Tyzuk gives the characters a thought-provoking twist: the spaceship captain is also its chaplain and must wrestle with moral and personal dilemmas. The captain’s first officer is the voice of reason and is also a sympathetic and well-drawn character in his own right. “The Dilemma” is guaranteed to keep you coming back.

Short Stories

Paul Gross writes to us from Russia; his “Shamans of Anjikuni” is a translation. When he tells us that it’s from a cycle of “Dark Stories,” he’s not just kidding. “Shamans” is a Horror story set in the Arctic. It relies on the mystery of the semi-invisible: Don’t look back, you never know who — or what — might be gaining on you!

Asgrimur Hartmannsson’s “Piece of Cake” is another change of pace: hellzapoppin slapstick comedy from beginning to end. Laurel and Hardy would have loved it. I noted that some nitrates in the recipe and some birthday candles could have caused Begga’s party to end with a rather noisy bang. You’ll see what I mean.

Norman A. Rubin’s “My Brother’s Keeper” has a setting similar to that of his “There Is an Eye in the Soul” in issue 54. Mr. Rubin certainly has a talent for creating atmosphere: his thunderstorms are not only believable, they’re indispensable!


Thomas R. has become something of our “court poet.” In recent issues he has favored us with a series of poems. This issue brings us one of his darkest and most powerful: “His Acid Snow” starts out with an oxymoron that becomes very real in light of the story implied by the poem.

Roberto Sanhueza gives us yet another change of pace: a light-hearted, sympathetic view of two of our favorite horror monsters. When Roberto puts down his orthodontist’s equipment and picks up a pen — figuratively speaking — he creates fables to delight one and all. Now if we could just get his stories illustrated, we might look for him on bookshelves as well as on line!

“Mars Draws Near,” by yours truly, is an experiment in form written on the occasion of Mars’ approach to Earth this month, the nearest in many millennia. As the subtitle indicates, it’s written as a traditional French ballad, which has a strictly prescribed form. The topic is ubi sunt (“where are...?”). The best-known example of it is “The Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times,” by François Villon (1431-1463?). The poem is only incidentally about Mars; it’s more of a lament about Earth’s current Zeitgeist: a world that seems to have lost its nerve and its way.

And, finally, thanks to John Thiel for his very supportive letter about issue 56! We invite contributions from our readers, and we love to encourage our authors.

Bewilderingly yours,

Don W.

Copyright © 2003 by Donald Webb

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